I’ve been out of school for decades, so getting “homework” from someone I’ve never laid eyes on kind of intrigued me.
As part of Husband #2’s personal therapy, his therapist gave him the assignment to write out his relationship non-negotiable items. As an extension, this same therapist asked Husband #2 to suggest to me that I compose my list of non-negotiables as well.
For the sake of definition, non-negotiables are those things we are not willing to give up or to accept in our relationship (or life). A list of non-negotiables should transcend superficial items (like “must be tall, dark, and handsome”) and get to the meat of what we really want (“must be law abiding citizen who doesn’t swindle people for a living”).
While on our September road trip, Husband #2 and I went over our individual lists. It was somewhat scary as I didn’t know if he would have things that I couldn’t possibly fill and conversely, if I would have listings that he decided were beyond his capabilities.
After a two hour discussion in the hotel room, I came to several conclusions. Neither of us has anything on our list that would draw a giant red X on the other.
We’re there any shockers on our list? No, not really. Were there any deal breakers? Not so much. There were a few that brushed the edges of being “at odds” but nothing that couldn’t be negotiated, if desired.
One thing I noticed was that his list brought out the black and white in him. My list brought out the shades of gray in me. This is in stark contrast to how Husband #2 describes us. In his eyes, I’m the black and white thinker and he’s more shades of gray. To hear him voice his black-and-whiteness was a little bit different than what I expected.
I recommend doing a non-negotiable list for any long-term dream. I originally crafted my non-negotiables when I was in a goal-setting class near the end of last year. I wrote about what I wanted in a future relationship, in a future retirement home, in my future employment, and even in my future self. The instructor explained that these types of lists help to keep you on a path to success and discourage you from straying into a time-wasting dead end.
For example, one of my non-negotiables is to have a partner who is financially responsible. To put it simply, I’m tired of trying to stay on task with retirement savings while having a partner who just isn’t interested in in a once a month discussion about paycheck deductions and tax shelters like Health Savings Accounts and IRAs. I end up carrying the full burden of work and feel unsupported. Going forward, if I find a partner who wants to play grasshopper to my ant, I can cut the cords early on and not get deeply invested in someone who will leave me as the sole responsible adult planning for the future.
I’ve already got kids. I don’t need another one.
A second non-negotiable is finding a travel buddy. I love “home” but also want to get out into the world. Being saddled with a partner who is only interested in watching TV or sitting in front of his computer for hours on end is not the type of person I want for a spouse. It’s OK to watch TV or use your computer, just don’t expect me to marry you if that is your life’s goal.
If you are interested in coming up with your own list, I highly recommend doing a search on “relationship non-negotiables”. Seeing what others add to their list helps to flesh out some things you might have never considered, like my aversion to swindlers.